Full of Faith—Full of Fear

sneakyThen the people who had arrested Jesus led Him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed Him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. Matthew 26:57-58 (NLT)

I feel for Peter. I would hate to have my actions recorded for anyone to read. If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve read the story. Peter boldly tells Jesus that he will follow Him to the grave. Jesus tells Peter it won’t be long before he denies Him, not once but three times.

We are left to imagine goes through Peter’s mind. I find it interesting that bold, outspoken Peter had a quiet thought of pause after Jesus, during the Passover celebration, told His closest friends that one of them would deny Him. For a moment Peter entertained the notion it could be him.

I can relate to Peter.

I grew up in church. I can sing songs like “I Surrender All” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” without the hymnal. While I’m at church the words come easy—I surrender all, all to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Then I leave church.

Sometimes I act like Peter and follow at a distance waiting to see how it all will end. I’m sure that evening in the courtyard, Peter was faced with the realization, he had as much faith as he had fear.

There is the lesson Peter’s life offers you and me today. It seems incongruous—faith and fear are incompatible—yet anyone who is honest has to admit, both live in the human heart. So what made Peter willing to jump over the side of the boat one minute and then deny his friend in his friend’s darkest hour?

Proximity.

It’s the thing that makes singing I Surrender All so easy at church but loving someone, not like me, so difficult when I’m at the market moments later.  It’s having the faith to know that God loves me but worrying about what will happen if… (you fill in your if).

See? You and I can curl our lips and shake our heads at how weak Peter was, but in the harsh light of truth, you, Peter and I are all the same. We are more comfortable at a distance when we aren’t sure how things will work out. We are all full of faith AND full of fear.

In our sameness, there is one stark difference. Peter didn’t know how this would turn out. We have the entire story. We have Peter’s eye-catching failures and we see Jesus’ astounding reaction to those failures—love.

So, if your fear is running high, let me encourage you today, move closer to Jesus, even if you don’t see the outcome. It’s in close proximity to Jesus that faith soars and fear fades. King David learned that truth. Paul wrote about it.

If your fear—sin, failure, or your lack of skill—causes you to hide—run to God in faith—He is waiting to forgive, empower and strengthen you. The same love Jesus had for Peter He has for you!

Move close to Jesus. Stay close to Jesus.

Father, increase my faith and help me overcome my fear! I so often stay at a distance because I can’t see how things will work out—how I can be successful, pleasing to You or safe? Those questions plague my mind and I want to run in fear. Remind me that Your love for me is not conditional on my performance. Let Your love for me increase my faith and shrink my fear!

A Tuesday Reminder

pale blue dotIs there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit, to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You. Psalm 139:7-12 (MSG)

Depending on your computer screen’s resolution, you may not be able to see the tiny dot between the 2 white dashes in the picture above. That tiny dot is what earth looks like from 4 Billion miles away. That’s a lot of miles!! The sun is 93 million miles from earth. It’s difficult to comprehend those kind of distances. As one who asked, “How much longer until we’re there?” about 50 times on a 300-mile trip to grandma’s, the thought of a billion miles doesn’t fit in my head.

That’s the point.

Has life dealt you a blow that knocked the wind out of you? Is there some problem about to consume you? What is the thing that keeps you awake, steals your joy, causes you fear? Whatever that giant is, it fits on that tiny dot. Problems are real. Struggles exist. Pain abounds. Regardless, who you are or what your problem is, it all fits on that tiny, little dot.

If you’re overwhelmed, look at that picture for a minute. Don’t stop there, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and insignificant. Read the words David penned in Psalm 139.   God knows every detail of every event occurring on this tiny dot.

You are not alone in your struggles. You are not far from God’s watchful eye of love and protection.   Psalm 136 declares God’s infinite love and faithfulness to everyone on this speck. Salvation, protection, provision, goodness and love come from a God greater than the universe. This colossal, uncontainable God directs His attention to this little crumb in space; because of love.

Let God help you with your problem. The problem that is insurmountable to you is nothing to God. God has the incomprehensible, uncontrollable, unimaginable, universe in His hand. God never intended for you to face your problems alone. When you ask He doesn’t have to come running, He’s all ready here, just waiting for you to call out to Him. He’s waiting for you to ask him for help.

What are you waiting for?

Photo courtesy of: The Big Sky Astronomy Club, Inc. Copyright: 2003 – 2012.

The details of the Voyager photo shoot: http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/pale_blue_dot.html

 

 

Toe-Jam and Discipleship

foot wash

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” John 13:8 (NIV)

I decided to have a pedicure—it would be my first—that day I thought it would be my last. For a short time, I worked for a “foot doctor.” I had washed the feet of patients who could not wash their own. I’ve seen gruesome feet; some mangled by lawn mowers, some simply neglected.  With the exception of baby feet, feet tend to be off-putting, unattractive and—at least here in America—private.

As the technician asked, “What color you want?” in her thick accent, I sat in the giant chair. That is when my pedicure became uncomfortable. The woman who was going to pretty- up my toes was about a foot shorter than me as we stood by each other. My lofty perch exaggerated that difference to the point of making me uncomfortable. At the end of my beautification the woman who was doing the job she did everyday received a huge tip from me in an effort to level the field.

I’m glad foot washing is not the norm in our culture. Although the practice was normal in Jesus’ culture, the night John wrote about was not normal. Foot washing didn’t take place during the meal—it was part of the greeting. I’m sure the disciples were dumbstruck and uncomfortable, maybe even a twinge of guilt poked their hearts, as Jesus got up and began to wash their feet.

As Jesus moved around the table, He reached Peter. Jesus explained, simply and directly, that Peter would understand what was happening later. That prompt was not enough to shut Peter’s mouth. I can understand Peter’s uneasiness and nervous chatter. I didn’t know the gal that was about to fuss with my feet on the day of my pedicure and I felt awkward—even though it was her job and she was just another person like me.   Peter suddenly found himself hovering above the man he professed to be the Messiah—the Man who did miracles, the Man who controlled nature, death and demons. Awkward indeed.

What the disciples didn’t know was this was their last peaceful moment with Jesus before His death. Jesus talked about His death and suffering—Peter was mouthy and prideful that day as well. This night was Jesus’ last chance to tell His friends THE most important truth a disciple can know.

Once you claim the name of Christ, the obligation is to love one another. Jesus acted out this truth. It is the mindset, the motivation, and the nature of Jesus’ act that Peter would come to understand in the following days and years. Look beyond the uneasy, prideful outburst of Peter and hear the quiet message of One willing to wash the dirty feet of His followers.

What was Jesus’ message to the disciples—what is they would come to understand?

  • Loving service is the highest call. The Apostle Paul would write about it to the Corinthian church. My paraphrase is; without love as the motivating factor for your actions—you are just busy making noise.
  • Love means loving those who don’t love you. Judas had his feet washed by Jesus that night—talk about uncomfortable! Jesus knew fully and Judas knew his part in the events that were about to take place.   Still, in love and with the desire for Judas’ good, Jesus washed the feet of the one who had betrayed Him behind His back and soon would betray Him openly.
  • Loving is not dependent on the ease of service. Jesus knew what the next hours held for Him. In that situation, my inclination would be some whining, scolding outburst of frustration. Not Jesus, in love He demonstrated the lesson He wanted His followers to learn while His fate, no doubt, weighed heavy on His mind.

I can relate to Peter. Jesus makes me uneasy in these situations. I, like Peter, enjoy serving Jesus on my own terms. I enjoy being part of Jesus’ crowd. Jesus knew the hard days that His “fan club” was about to face. Jesus knew this band of followers would need more “glue” than the memory of His miracles and the echo of His words would provide. They needed action—that action is love one for another. Not just when it’s easy. Not just when it’s convenient. Not only for those who can love you back.

The love Jesus demonstrated and the love He calls His followers to act out is love that acts when there is no benefit to love the other person, when the love shown goes unreciprocated, when it’s inconvenient—Jesus loved His disciples that way. Jesus loves YOU and me that way.  Love is the glue that holds us together as believers

Then Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Lord, help me do them!

Father, this is a difficult passage for me to read. I relate to Peter so well. When it’s easy to love—I love it! When it’s difficult to love—I try to ignore the call. I understand the uneasiness Peter felt—following Jesus isn’t easy—He told us it would require cross-carrying. Teach me to love as Jesus did. Don’t let me be content to live in my pride. Teach me to be a servant.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

You’re the First to Know!

secret

Keep reading–I’m making an announcement today!

Below, you’ll find the links for the week’s posts—you can reread or catch up. Share them with your friends! Check out the little map on the right hand side—I installed it three weeks ago—it’s really filled up! Scroll down and look—you can see who else is reading along with you! That map humbles and amazes me!

If this blesses you, please share it with your friends and family. Thanks to the faithful readers who “like” and share post on Facebook each day. It may seem like a simple, unimportant thing – but it helps and I appreciate your support.

If you have friends and family members who are not computer users, who really like to hold books (as I do), or who need to hear the gospel in a non-threatening way—would you consider purchasing them a copy of one of my devotional books? You can find them on Amazon.com. The Books We Never Read is a 3-month devotional in the Old Testament. Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a 1-month devotional. Thanks in advance!!!

Guess what will be available in a week or two? You guessed it—another devotional. Do you have friend or family that loves dogs? Are you a dog lover? Just in time to buy as a stocking stuffer comes A Clever Disguise (that’s the working title). It’s a 1-month devotional all about God but disguised as a devotional about Ozzy—it will be super affordable so you can buy multiple copies and give them to your friends who need to understand God’s love and grace (This devotional will be especially good for those who may not want to read a devotional “about God”).   I can’t wait for you to see it!!!

By the way—only 10 weekends until Christmas—don’t pay for overnight shipping –order now (A Clever Disguise will be available in time to order for Christmas!)!!

Have you felt like you’re looking in the mirror as you look at Peter’s life? Come back tomorrow. Peter has a few more lessons to teach us.

Monday: Others may have a plan that includes you taking care of yourself.

Tuesday: Are you waiting for things to be just right before you respond to Jesus’ call?

Wednesday: Sometimes the trash has an appeal.

Thursday: God is longing to have a close relationship with you.

Friday: Accepting the LIFE-STYLE Jesus offers is more difficult—it requires some gnawing.

Saturday: It’s difficult to carry your cross when your hands of full of the “stuff” or people you think are important.

Good Or Better—Which Is Best?

good and betterFrom then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead. Matthew 16:21 (NLT)

Better is the enemy of good. Have you every tried to fix what wasn’t broken, only to break it? Just one more little adjustment and it will be perfect! As you tighten the screw, trim the edge, or adjust the setting—good becomes non-existent—better out of the question.

Better is the enemy of good. Although that may be true in tinkering, cooking, sewing and life in general, Jesus has THE BETTER way to live. In the life of the disciple “good” is the enemy of “better.” Peter found that out directly from Jesus.

From then on…

It was after Jesus’ praise of Peter’s God-revealed proclamation that you find Peter and Jesus in a very different sort of interaction.  Following the “You are blessed, Simon (Peter)” you read Jesus saying “Get away from Me, Satan.” what opposite ends of the spectrum! Imagine how Peter must have felt.

Peter is not that different from you and me. Remember, Peter was a fisherman. He was rough-and-tumble, and I imagine, rough around the edges. In my mind, I imagine Peter as a man with a scruffy beard, body odor that mingled with the smell of fish and lake water, disheveled hair and dirty clothes—dirty from work—not simply messy. I think Peter talked with his mouth full, wiped his mouth on his arm, and reached in front of others at the table. Peter was accustomed to the looks of people who thought they were better than he was—he was, after all, a common fisherman.

So on the day that Jesus praised Peter, Peter moved up a rung or two on the ladder in his mind. Jesus didn’t praise Luke, the educated physician. Matthew, the tax collector was silent. Jesus and Peter had a special connection from their first meeting—perhaps Jesus’ praise pleased Peter. The boorish fisherman, Peter, got the answer right that day.

The thing Peter didn’t seem to hear was that his “right answer” came from God. So, when Jesus began all His talk of suffering and dying, Peter was eager to speak up again. This time Peter’s words came from his own heart. Certainly, Peter didn’t want his friend to die. Jesus’ response to Peter reveals what was lurking in Peter’s heart.

Jesus’ harsh rebuke undoubtedly stung Peter and stopped his protest.

Peter’s quiet scolding resulted in Jesus setting the record straight, aloud, for ALL the disciples to hear. Jesus’ response revealed the true motive of Peter’s protest. The life of following Christ is not about status, gain or privilege. The life of the disciple is one of surrender, giving, and the loss of what one considers good in exchange for what is better.

The call to Christ’s disciples is a call to the life of a servant, the life of cross bearing, and the life of loss. The temptation to skirt that mission is great—even for Jesus—that is why Jesus was so harsh in His response to Peter’s concern. The glory for the disciple is found in choosing better over good—choosing the eternal over the present.

It’s difficult to carry your cross when your hands of full of the “stuff” or people you think are important. Status, things, relationships—all the trappings of life—Jesus put those things in perspective for His followers that day. He offers the same caution and command to you and me today.  It’s not that difficult to be “good.” “Good” isn’t the call of the disciple.

Keeping your hands on your cross is a life and death struggle with an eternal implication. It’s not an easy call to hear. It’s not one many are willing to answer.

For the believer—the enemy of BETTER is GOOD.

Father, help me to reject the notion of being “good enough.” Empower me to be “better”—to strive for the things that are important to You. Teach me to rely on Your power and grace to carry the cross You’ve called me to carry. Loosen my grip on the good things and give me a desire for the better things You have waiting for me. Give me the heart of a servant.

 

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

 

 

Gnawing on Jesus

gnawing Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”… At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.  Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. John 6:60, 66-68 (NLT)

 

Peter is about to have another shining moment of insight.  John didn’t record his water walking, but this interaction happens after the crowd of 5,000 was fed with the little boy’s lunch, and Jesus walked on the water during the nighttime storm.

This encounter shows Jesus doing what He does best. That thing is also the most disconcerting, if you ask me. Jesus asks a simple, probing question and waits for the answer. Here’s the setting. The huge crowd that Jesus fed and those He healed lost track of Him as He left for some alone time. Remember, Jesus commanded the disciples to get in the boat and cross the lake and then He disappeared. Later, Jesus walked across the lake and calmed the storm. The next day, the crowd realized a boat, the disciples and Jesus were gone and took off to find Jesus.

Once the crowd found Jesus, they asked the desperate question, Hey, what’s up? Why did You leave without us!? It was then Jesus spoke the “hard” words to the crowd. There it is. If you have ever tried to witness about Jesus to your friends or family—you know it’s hard. I don’t mean difficult, I mean “hard” as in difficult to hear and understand. One the surface, the life Jesus offers doesn’t make a lot of sense.

If you read the entire chapter, you’ll see the entire picture. The crowd happily received lunch and healing—the Jesus that provides is an easy Jesus to follow. The Jesus that provides is also the Jesus who calls those who want to follow Him to “gnaw” on His “flesh”, drink His “blood”—to abandon the trite and trivial trappings of life and seek eternal truth.

After Jesus told the crowd, the “hard” things something happened. Usually the Bible records that people followed Jesus, there was a push to be next to Him—the crowds were so intent on being close to Jesus that He had to separate himself from them—not this time. This time, many of the people following Jesus left—Jesus’ teaching was too difficult to accept.

As Jesus turned to His twelve, I imagine Him quietly asking with one eyebrow raised, Are you going to leave, too? Then Jesus waited for the answer. Words on a page make it seem like Peter’s answer was instantaneous—maybe it was—there’s no way to be certain, but I think there was a few moments of uncomfortable silence as Jesus waited for the answer.

I have to think it took Peter a minute or two to come up with His answer. Peter’s response seems sheepish—since he phrased in a question. Think about how you answer when you aren’t completely sure you have the right answer—it’s usually with an equivocating question. Noticing no one else was going to answer, Peter offered a response, Who else can we follow?—You’re the only One who offers something worth having—eternal life.

Have you been in that situation? On the days when you feel particularly blessed, when your spiritual tummy is full of bread and fish or you’ve been snatched from the storm, there’s a skip in your step. Following Jesus is a blast. Those moments fade, sometimes quickly, as the command— love those who hurt you and don’t seek revenge but bless them—leaves you in a conflicted quandary. On the day when there are bills to pay and no money in your pocket, the memory of yesterday’s free lunch grows faint rather quickly.

Jesus believes in truth in advertising— Jesus is not always easy to follow.

Jesus offers a crazy prospect—believe in Me—and receive eternal life.  It’s not as simple as acknowledging that Jesus is nice, or good, or even divine. Jesus used the word “gnaw” when He told His followers to “eat his flesh”—that is, live My kind of life.

Let me ask you the same question Jesus asks— Are you willing to gnaw on Jesus?  Can you accept the life of grace He offers? I don’t mean simply accepting His gracious gift— but accepting the life, that gift offers. Accepting His grace is easy—who doesn’t want to escape punishment? Accepting the LIFE-STYLE Jesus offers is more difficult—it requires some gnawing.

For some that day, Jesus was just a person who was talking crazy-talk. Others were hungry but only wanted temporal food, not eternal food. Others only heard the preposterous. Others heard their goodness was not enough to secure their eternity. Those all left—bewildered, sad, and still hungry.

Others heard Jesus’ words—Follow Me. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

Will you stay or will you go?

Father, give me Your strength when I think following Christ is not worth it. Help me see passed my circumstances to eternity. Help me live out the life You’ve called me to live. Teach me the value of “gnawing” on Christ – studying, applying and living out the life of grace the Holy Spirit empowers me to live. Thank You for life—eternal life.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

He IS a Handsome Gentleman

002My head is still swimming today – Ozzy is my snuggle-buddy when I don’t feel well, so he’s on my mind today. Ozzy is a schnauzer-poodle mix, therefore a schnoodle. His daily affirmation is; You are a handsome gentleman and wonderful in every way. I’ve had many dogs in my life, by far Ozzy has been the best. He’s a very friendly dog. Always wanting to please me, he is very obedient with the exception of the times his exuberance gets the best of him.

Having been a dog lover all my life, I honestly prefer the company of a dog to that of most people I know. Dogs have a way of making you feel good. A dog loves you to death, even on your most despicable days.

The little video and song God and Dog.  No, I do not think God is a dog. I do think God reveals Himself in His creation, and the song by Wendy Francisco captures that truth in a simple and compelling way.

As much as Ozzy loves me in my imperfection, impatience and fallen state, God loves me more. So often God is portrayed as a being who is big and scary, looking for his subjects to slip up so he can punish them. There is nothing farther from the truth. God is holy. He hates sin. One day He will punish those who reject His gift of salvation, but now, God is a loving Father, longing for His creation to come to Him. God would prefer to lavish His love on you rather than punish you, that’s why He offered up His only Son to pay for the sin of you and me.

Ozzy will stand and look out the window when I leave. He’ll watch me back out of the drive. He’ll watch until my car rounds the corner. It always makes me sad. When I return home, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours later, he’s there to greet me, his nubby tail wagging and his nose sniffing. I usually get a toy presented to me. As soon as I sit down, he’s in my lap. It’s very gratifying after a long day at work.

In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells the familiar story of the prodigal son. The younger son took his inheritance before his father died, and squandered his wealth in wild living. The son’s actions were intentional and willful.   So was his action to come back to his father. The son returned to the father who was waiting, longing and watching for his son’s homecoming. The dad’s response to the homecoming of his lost son—a joyful party.

God is longing to have a close relationship with you. If you have left to squander your wealth in wild living, He’s waiting for you to come back. Don’t worry when you return, He’ll be happy. He’s not interested in your shame, only your willingness to return to Him. Don’t wait any longer, He is longing for your return and will dance with glee when you arrive.

If you have never “left home” enjoy His company today. He’s always thrilled to have you around.

Father, thank you for the ways You reveal Yourself around us.   I’m so grateful for you endless love, compassion, mercy and faithfulness.

Stay Out of the Trash!

dirty Ozzy

 

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  Deuteronomy 30:11 (NIV)

 

 

Ozzy is fed twice a day, plus treats for good behavior. He has never been underweight. He has a great life and if he asks for more food, he gets it. He does ask. If he’s hungry and his food bowl is empty, he’ll knock his food bowl around until his needs are met.

Still, I have to police the trash. We don’t have a trash can in the kitchen—that seems to be an open invitation for trouble. Our trash usually hangs from one of the cupboard knobs in the plastic bag we get from the grocery store. We take the trash out often. The crinkly bag offers me a warning that Ozzy is about to make a huge mess.

What is in the trash that is so appealing? Once the tidbit of goodness Ozzy found was the burned, greasy ketchup from the aluminum foil that covered the meat loaf.  By burned, I mean, BLACK. Other times it’s the paper napkins or paper towels, Q-tips, various wrappers or potato peels. Sometimes there is food in his bowl, which he ignores to go digging for something else. Whatever it is Ozzy finds in the trash, it’s not as good as the food sitting untouched in his bowl.

I don’t know why the trash is so appealing. I will admit, I have opted for trash instead of good food, figuratively speaking. Sometimes the trash has an appeal. There is something tantalizing about it. Unfortunately, it takes being in the trashcan for the realization to set in; this is trash, there has to be something better. In writing about Moses, Hebrews 11:25, admits there is some pleasure in sin, albeit fleeting. The pleasure is not usually in a 1:1 ratio with the trouble sin causes. The pleasure is limited, the problems usually compound.

Still, we see the tendency in others and ourselves, to rush toward sin, to dig in the trash. God made a clear distinction in Deuteronomy 30:11-20.

God states it’s not hard to understand: life and prosperity or death and destruction. The trashcan is there and available for rooting through, but God gives the “Duh” advice in v 19, choose life. The reasons are interesting: first for our descendents, but more importantly,

“that you may love the Lord your God and listen to His voice

and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…”

Following the tendency to dig in the trash is the tendency to blame someone else for putting you there or giving you trash while you look at the good food of others.   It’s difficult to live both in and out of the trash can. So, God tells us simply to stay out, for our own good; life and love are easier outside of the trash can. He has prosperity and life for each of us, if that is what we choose.

 

Father, thank You for Your gift of love! Remind me daily to stay out of the trash. Remind me the easy way is often not the best way. Remind me no matter how good the trash may look, it’s still trash. Help me to choose Your way and the good things You have for me. Help me to love You, hold fast to You and find my life in You.

Leaving the Boat

waterImmediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT)

I’ve shared many times—I’m a procrastinator. Not for lack of knowledge—I used to teach an in-service about time management. I’m a procrastinator because the “cost” of being a procrastinator has never been high enough to cause me to change my behavior.  Sure, I could have spent less time panicked about a deadline had I not procrastinated. I might have had more, or a better quality of sleep. I could have played with my friends instead of working late. None of those situations was painful enough to cause me to change my behavior.

For those of you who stay on task and are eager to finish projects and assignments as soon as they are assigned—you must understand, I don’t procrastinate for the sake of procrastination.  I procrastinate because I need to have everything “right” before I begin.  I need to know I can finish a project before I start it.  It’s not a matter of gathering the things I need—that part is easy. It’s having the proper mindset and perfect set of circumstances coinciding before I begin. If you understand this concept—you’re a procrastinator. If you don’t—thank God that you’re not a procrastinator and continue reading.

This is THE story—the story where Peter walks on water and then sinks. Fortunately, Jesus rescues Peter. If Peter only had enough faith, He would have danced across the stormy lake. If Peter hadn’t taken his eyes off Jesus to look at the waves he would have been fine. I’ve heard many sermons about Peter’s lack of faith. As I think about this passage, I have to wonder, was Peter the failure?

Peter did walk on the water. Peter walked on the water while his friends stayed in the boat.

Think back to yesterday’s post. The disciples had just witnessed Jesus feeding thousands of people. Jesus’ initial command was for the disciples feed the people. Their response to that command was; we don’t have enough—there’s no way to get enough—let them take care of themselves. Then Jesus took not enough, blessed it and turned it into more than enough.

Now, the fishermen are in their boat—a familiar place—one they experienced many times. These men had weathered storms. These men were not strangers to dark nights at sea.   This night a spooky figure had them scared and off balance. Once Peter realized the ghost was actually Jesus walking on the water, he wanted in on the action. The others stayed in the boat.

Are you waiting for things to be just right before you respond to Jesus’ call? Are you a “spiritual procrastinator”? Have you—do you—feel a tug from God in your spirit that you can’t or won’t respond to because things aren’t quite right?

Situations are rarely right when Jesus says, “You feed them.” or “Come.” You may not have enough—enough money, strength, courage, ability, resources, or time. A small lunch isn’t enough to feed a crowd and the water isn’t able to hold you—unless Jesus does the blessing and the calling. Once those things happen, there are leftovers in the middle of the wilderness and buoyancy in the middle of the storm.

God has a full, exciting life awaiting His followers. God’s plans for you are bigger than the comfortable, and the familiar. Paul wrote it like this:

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Jump out of the boat! See beyond the size of the little lunch! Measure your ability and strength using God’s power. Instead of looking for the familiar, imagine what God could do if you didn’t wait for everything to be just right and move in His strength—you’ll find more than you can imagine.

He’s waiting for you to climb out of the boat.

Father, when I want to be comfortable in my familiar place—give me a glimpse of Your great plan. Teach me to trust in your power not my strength, intellect, possessions or ability. Show me the abundant, miraculous life You intend for me to live. I will trust You!

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Twelve Disciples Catering Company

Feeding the 5000. Photo by Adam Gasson / adamgasson.com As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.  Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

 “Bring them here,” he said.  Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers.  About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! Matthew 14:13-21 (NLT)

Mark 6:30-44      Luke 9:10-17       John 6:1-15

On our way to the parking lot, my friend and I were recapping the events of the day. Walking and jabbering we made it to the parking lot. As she unlocked her car, I realized my car was on top of the ramp, one block away. Caught up in the conversation, I walked along with her as we chatted. I can relate to this group of people following Jesus.

The crowd of 5,000 men and associated women and children were on day 3 of following Jesus. Perhaps it was because the news was out—John the Baptist was dead—this Jesus had to be the next man to follow. Maybe the listeners couldn’t stand the thought of leaving this man who was full of compassion and able to do miracles. Whatever the reason, the unprepared crowd tagged along with Jesus and His disciples. When they started walking and listening, I’m sure they didn’t plan to go that far, they just did.

This created a problem. I’ve planned week-long meetings for groups of people coming in from out-of-town. It’s a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. The accommodations for 5,000+ people would take days of planning. Even in modern times, the logistics for a crowd that size requires food and beverage orders that would make the heads of simple fishermen swim (no pun intended).

This story makes it into all four gospels—it’s the only story other than the crucifixion that does—so there is an important message revealed in this story. Peter’s name isn’t mentioned. Andrew gets the credit for finding the little boy with the famous loaves and fishes. In one account, Jesus speaks directly to Phillip. Peter is there somewhere—as the unofficial leader of the disciples—undoubtedly he’s not far off.

Look at Jesus. He sees the crowd, has compassion on them and tells the disciples to get ready to feed them. What!?! There is no town close by, even if there was, a small town would not have enough food to feed that many people. The disciples understand that. The disciples have a pragmatic response—I can imagine Peter muttering it under his breath.

Let these people take care of themselves.

Jesus wanted the disciples to take care of this situation. It was their chance to exercise their faith. Their response was one of “We can’t.” Jesus took over, and asked how much food they did have. I can picture the disciples, upset and frustrated—knowing Jesus wanted them to do something—but not sure how to make it happen. Jesus takes the meager amount of food the disciples scrounged up, blessed it and provided more than enough for everyone.

Jesus wanted His disciples to understand two things.

First, He knows about AND cares about your needs. He was unwilling to let the crowd go hungry. He was not inclined to let them flounder on their own. He won’t do that with you either.   Others may have a plan that includes you taking care of yourself. Jesus doesn’t. Just ask Him. He’s waiting to help you. The disciples were going to carry on Jesus’ ministry—and that is one of being involved with people.

Second, Jesus can turn not enough into more than enough. EVERY single person I know lives with self-doubt. The disciples in Jesus’ presence were no different. That is why Jesus made sure each had a basketful of leftovers at the end—He’s more than enough.

Once they collected the leftovers—Jesus made the disciples get in a boat and head across the lake. He wasn’t finished teaching His lesson on faith.

Father, loosen my grip on the things I think I need to control. Make me more willing to share and be involved, knowing the skills and things I give to You, You can make perfect. Help me abandon my self-reliance and self-doubt and boldly rely on Your power to accomplish Your plan.

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